Have you recognized the opportunity?

Upskilling for our future – The Apprenticeship Levy

As our national capacity to invent, make and own things seems to daily diminish, there’s a real possibility that longer term, the UK will become no more than a low skill, service delivery mega-centre off the north west coast of Europe.  How many have grasped the potential magnitude of the opportunity for UK PLC’s presented by the Apprenticeship Levy?

Before summarizing the opportunity, let’s consider the counter argumentation, much of which is built not on ideological objection, but on simple lack of understanding:

Why use the levy?

The opportunity to acquire accreditation in roles previously deemed too intangible to quantify is a compelling case for commitment. As an example; Sales is largely ignored by career advisors and academia mainly because the profession is poorly understood by both. Young adults reliably informed of employment pathways to financial security, career progression and entrepreneurial opportunity will be very interested. Building a qualification around core business and life skills which have already created companies, jobs and wealth is vital to national economic health. Investment in human capital ticks a very important box for millennials whose value set differs markedly from that of their parents.It’s too bureaucratic and inflexible.

The content of a Level 4 Sales Apprenticeship can be tailored to specific industries if the learning cohort is large enough

Barry Hilton

It’s too bureaucratic and inflexible –For whom? Process is necessary because a qualification is the end-point.  To generate commitment rigour must be applied. The use of public money necessitates the elimination of any possibility of misappropriation. Quality must be assured and this demands attentiveness. Regarding flexibility; process need not equate to rigidity. The cry of ‘our company is unique’ is heard in chorus every day. If we are all unique, surely we are all the same? Most core competencies in Sales are common across role and industry sector. Anyone arguing otherwise does not really understand sales. The nuance which undoubtedly exists is a factor but by no means the predominant one. Ways to manage the process are being refined.

The opportunity cost –  Businesses are often prone to short-termism and evidence of that is easy to find. Many companies worry about lost productivity costs and in particular – lost sales. It seems few are considering the multiplicative power of a more able and stable sales team which can improve conversion rates, lower the cost of sale, increase turnover and grow the customer base. A short, unconnected training programme has the same impact as an adrenalin shot. Equipping the next generation of sales professionals requires investment from individual and employer alike, otherwise the old cycle in which only the strongest survive is perpetuated.

No defined training path for the professional salesperson – Qualifications now exist to map the pathway of a salesperson from entry into the profession through to a sales leadership role.  In times past, this journey was undertaken unofficially with each success or promotion seen as a hard-won badge of honour. Now, the knowledge, skills and attitudinal requirements can be measured alongside the actual sales results to validate and recognize the capability and achievement level of the individual salesperson

Mature apprentices – Young people are missing out.1 The Levy should not impact on recruitment of young people. So why is there a growing and valid concern that the apprenticeship reform has reduced the number of apprenticeships available to school leavers in favour of apprenticeships for people who have already been employed for some time? It does however offer a qualification to those who may never have had the opportunity to gain professional recognition in a role before…

Where now?  Change is inevitable. The learning marketplace in the UK has undergone a significant alteration. Budget holders across the country are considering whether training provisioned through hard-fought internal negotiation can now be funded through the Levy. This means either; more human capital development can be accessed or, the money can be diverted elsewhere in the business.

Reference & Further information

1 – (Dunn, Apprenticeship Levy Pricing Young People Out Of Training, 2018) – https://www.newstatesman.com/spotlight/2018/03/apprenticeship-levy-pricing-young-people-out-training

The Association of Professional Sales:             https://www.associationofprofessionalsales.com/

Institute for Apprenticeships:          https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/

Apprenticeships for England:          https://www.app4eng.info/